To break the cycle of poverty in the Israeli Ethiopian community, The Fellowship enthusiastically finds young, talented people within the community and encourages them to reach their full potential. The Fellowship-supported Nishmat program helps young Ethiopian women straight out of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) by offering them much-needed career and college counseling.
Each year, a new group of 16 young Ethiopian women enter the Fellowship-funded program. In the first year, they are offered a full curriculum of subjects, including Tanakh – the Jewish Bible – modern Jewish History, and the history and customs of the Jewish Ethiopian community. They also offer the required subjects for acceptance into Israeli colleges and universities.
By the second year of the program, the girls are already enrolled in colleges across Israel. Those who are attending colleges and universities in and around Jerusalem live in the dormitory located there. All the girls receive a Fellowship stipend for school books and other school related items, as well as career counseling and guidance to help them navigate through higher education.
Currently, women in this program study a whole array of fields, including medicine, engineering, computer science, while some have gone on to earn degrees in teaching and special education. And with gratitude toward God, we are thrilled to know that our graduates serve as a shining example of hope to the rest of their community.
The Fellowship-supported Nishmat helps people like Yafit:
Yafit’s family lived off their family farm on the rural plains of Ethiopia. Yafit says that farming was how they lived for many generations.
Though they enjoyed their life, Yafit’s parents never lost sight of the greatest hope and aspiration of the Jewish people – returning to Zion. And so, when Yafit was just a small girl, her family sold their land and moved to the Ethiopian city center of Gondar. Only in Gondar could they begin the drawn-out bureaucratic process of gaining permission to move to Israel.
“We waited eight years in Gondar, during which my parents used up all the money they had made when they sold off the farm,” Yafit says. “And so when we came to Israel we had nothing — just the clothes we were wearing.”
Yafit was 10 when her family finally made it to Israel. Living in a modern country and trying to earn a living without a college degree is very difficult, and so Yafit’s farmer parents were at a great disadvantage in Israel. Even jobs requiring no experience were difficult to get because of the language barrier.
“Though my father didn’t speak Hebrew well at all, he ended up finding work on a farm, while my mother was a house cleaner,” Yafit says. “It was very hard for them to work for other people and to make so little money, especially after owning their own farm.”
Yafit explains that for her parents, all the hardships of leaving everything behind and starting new would be well worth the sacrifice so long as their children would succeed. “My parents believed education was very important. They dreamed to see me study in university,” Yafit says.
However, attaining an education has many expenses. You need money to pay for school, for books, and sometimes tutoring. You also pay the cost of living. You need guidance from someone who has had the experience of gaining a degree, which is something that Yafit’s parents never had.
Which is why Yafit is blessed to have joined a Fellowship-funded project geared towards helping young Ethiopian women realize their potential and build their career.
Yafit, now 21, is currently finishing up her first year of this Fellowship-funded project. She served in the IDF before joining The Fellowship pre-college program and is now a shining example to her younger brother and sisters.
“Thanks to The Fellowship I have spent a year gaining the skills I needed to get into college,” Yafit says. “I want to study physical therapy, and I needed to make up credits in biology and math, and with The Fellowship’s help, I was able to do that and to get accepted into a physical therapy program in a Jerusalem college.”
Besides her academic achievements this year, Yafit has also taken classes in Judaism and the history of the Ethiopian-Jewish community through the pre-college program. “The Fellowship has taught me so much about who I am, where I come from, and where I want to go. The growth and the skills I have gained this past year will be with me for life. Thank you!”